UK Men's Basketball

Gillispie hopes recruits are 'Mad' about the Cats

Kentucky expects 12 prospects to attend its Big Blue Madness on Friday night, Coach Billy Gillispie said on Thursday. Of those, three will be making official recruiting visits, including top-30 national prospect Daniel Orton of Oklahoma City.

The objective will not be to show the prospects how well UK plays basketball.

"It will be very, very, very, very bad basketball," Gillispie told the Lexington Rotary Club. "But it should be a lot of fun."

Showing how much Kentuckians love basketball is the point of Madness, Gillispie said. That love is what the UK coach hopes makes a winning impression on the prospects.

"It's one of the best events I've ever been a part of as a basketball coach," Gillispie said. "You really get a feel for how important basketball is at Kentucky."

UK expects to fill Rupp Arena (capacity about 24,000). The doors open at 9 p.m., with the team expected to appear on the court around 10:30 p.m.

"It's a big weekend for us," said Gillispie, meaning the recruiting overtone to the evening, "and it needs to be a big weekend for us."

Of the 12 prospects expected to attend, some will have already committed to Kentucky. That category will include Jon Hood of Madisonville and G.J. Vilarino of Mckinney, Texas.

Besides Orton, the uncommitted prospects who will attend include Russell Byrd, a high school junior from Fort Wayne, Ind.

The player's father, Kelly Byrd, said the family would get a full dose of Kentucky on the visit, which began Wednesday night. The Byrds had scheduled a tour of horse farms, racing at Keeneland, Madness and UK's football game against South Carolina.

"That's a good time," the elder Byrd said.

Whether it will persuade Byrd to commit to UK remains unknown. But the player's father made it sound like a commitment might happen.

"There's not much question left about their commitment to him," Kelly Byrd said of UK's interest in his son. "Now, we're looking for that gut feeling."

Byrd has visited Ohio State and Michigan the past two weekends. He's considering a visit to Michigan State on the weekend of Oct. 17-19.

As of Thursday, it was unclear whether one of the top point guards in the high school class of 2009 would attend. John Wall of Raleigh, N.C., had all but suspended the recruiting process after his mother was hospitalized. Reportedly, Wall's family believed the stress of recruiting had contributed to her illness.

Sportswriter Tim Stevens of the Raleigh News & Observer said on Thursday that Wall did not mention a visit to UK when the two spoke a week earlier.

Wall has visited Kentucky unofficially and made trips to Oklahoma State and Baylor.

Among the prospects publicly linked to UK, at least two are not expected to attend. Schoolwork kept forward Adreian Payne of Dayton, Ohio, from attending, his high school coach said. Guard K.C. Ross-Miller was also not expected to attend.

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